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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - June 22, 2011

From: Arlington, VA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Need suggestions for plants for a privacy screen in Arlington, VA.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I am looking for a tall-growing tree/shrub to act as a privacy screen with neighbors on two existing borders, including, e.g., blocking out the neighbors tall swing set gym, deck, and other activity, which is only 10 feet from the back of our house. Due to the very small amount of yard space, I am looking for something that grows upright and is not wide.

ANSWER:

You don’t mention your growth conditions or whether there is a fence on not, so let me introduce you to our Native Plant Database that can help with finding plants for particular situations. One way of using the Database is to go to the Recommended Species Lists. Click on View Recommended Species Page, and then click on Virginia on the map. This will bring up 122 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Virginia. This is more information than you need, so go to the Narrow Your Search box to the right of the window and make the following selections: select Virginia under State, Shrub under habit, and Perennial under duration.  Click on the Narrow Your Search button and the list is reduced to 30. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that has plant characteristics, growth requirements and photos. These can help you select plants whose growth requirements fit your growing situation.

You can control the height and width of your screen with careful pruning.

Another approach is to plant an evergreen vine on trellises. This time, use the Combination Search Box on the Native Plant Database page. It works similarly, so make the same selections as before, except select Vine instead of Shrub under habit, and click on the Submit Combination Search button. This brings up a list of 63 native species to choose from.

For help closer to home, you can contact the folks at the Arlington County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension.

 

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